Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Neat trick.

I was going to write a fairly long and detailed blog post today but then I realized that I had left the power adapter for my laptop in a rather inconvenient place.* So, after walking for a fairly extended period of time to recover said adapter, I find that I no longer have the time for a detailed post. So, you get this instead.

A lot of you have probably seen this video recently posted over on Crooked Timber. If you haven't seen it, take a few moments and watch it now:

For those who aren't sure, yes, that's a robot and it's finding its footing and maintaining balance using onboard resources. There is no man behind the curtain or processing carried out in a supercomputer elsewhere. Thus it is, in a word, awesome.

Now, this research was funded by DARPA, which means that someone hopes to use it for a weapons system eventually. Supposedly the plan is to use it as a robotic pack mule for soldiers in rough terrain** but given the resourcefulness of the American military community, I'm sure it will occur to someone to place a turret*** on this thing and use it as an ROV sooner or later.**** Still, I think we should keep in mind that this technology has phenomenal peaceful potential.

Consider, for a moment, its possible use for those currently restricted to wheelchairs. Stairs and rough terrain can present serious obstacles for these folks but what if this technology became both robust and cheap? Could we build a quadrapedal robotic "wheelchairs" capable of substantially improved mobility? Sure! How about an all-terrain vehicle for emergency services that could operate in deep snow or in backwoods areas? And what about the opportunities for space probes? A rover that used this system to pick its way over the surface of Mars would be a lot safer than our current wheeled vehicles.

And best of all? This thing just looks f-ing cool.

* No, not the back of a Volkswagon.

** At the risk of being stupid, I wonder why we don't just use an actual pack mule for soldiers in rough terrain.

*** Funny story: I remarked on this idea to my wife and she initially believed that I said someone could put a turd on the robot. Definitely possible but, we agree, not really useful for much.

**** And by that I mean "sooner" since I heard about the whole turret idea from someone else.

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Anonymous bookmobile said...

I would look much cooler sitting atop a quadrupedal robot. And much creepier.

Monday, March 31, 2008 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous a very public sociologist said...

There's plenty of space exploration potential in that thing too. You could have a whole load of those things running around on the surface of, say, Mars. Beats waiting six months for a little remote controlled robot to crawl a mile.

Monday, March 31, 2008 12:34:00 PM  

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